School Online – Journal – Day 13

Day 13? Saturday? For our timetable team this is now Day 9 without a break, and there will be a Day 10, and maybe a Day 11.

When I was offered this position it was described as a part-time role, along with five other part-time Principals and four full-time Vice Principals, under the leadership of a coordinating Principal. We had about 8000 students, and anticipated a staff of teachers drawn from our existing schools.

The first part is still true, but we are over 11,000 students now, and our staff includes more than 150 LTO, or Long-Term Occasional teachers, each of whom must be hired and the paperwork completed in order for them to begin teaching on Tuesday. So this was the task for most of our team today: figuring out how to complete the paperwork, and have it signed by the LTO teacher, then returned so that the approval signatures could be added for them to be hired. As part of the wellness initiative at our board is a recognition that we need our weekends, so we have a “no email” policy. This has made the task for our VP team much more complicated. They will likely be at it through Sunday into Monday.

There is also the issue of having enough LTO teachers to fill the positions.  One of our neighbouring boards was in the news today, indicating that they did not have enough teachers to fill their virtual school.  We are in the same boat, since teachers often work for both our boards.  We just haven’t made the news…. yet.

I spent this morning completing the task of timetabling 137 of our students into their first two quadmesters.  The process of searching for each student, entering the screen to input courses, and searching for each course, and entering it was not a speedy one.  When done, I then was provided with the list of teachers, and began to organize their assignments within my spreadsheet. The challenge at this stage is that only ONE person can be working in the timetable at a time when changing the database, so we plan in a spreadsheet, and then one person types while the other person reads and proofreads. Given how long it took me to input four courses for 137 students, I can’t imagine how inputting six teacher names for six courses each will take!

And did I mention that each of us is working from our own space, remotely? So in between the work are the phone calls and emails that have had to take the place of a simple conversation from one desk to another. We can’t just be in the middle of a problem-solving session with one person, and invite another person in the room to join. We must phone them, send them the document via email so that they know what we are talking about, and then move our conversation to Teams in order to engage them in the process. So everything takes just a little bit longer, and has the potential for miscommunication when we take the shortcut of using only phone or only email.

Given this, I am amazed at the work that is getting done.

So, back to yesterday’s work. We didn’t have enough teachers allocated for the classes in the group I was inputing. Long-story-short: approval to hire five more was given, and now our VPs will have to cycle back, and begin the hiring process at the start for these five. I gave a “heads-up” to the coordinator at the board that we were going to need to put in place a plan to communicate with the students, should we not have a teacher in place by Tuesday. And that we would need to plan to prepare the teachers we do have, and possibly supply teachers, to work online.

Our contract teachers who are part of our Online School have had the experience of teaching online since schools closed in March.  They come to these positions having experienced “Emergency Remote Teaching”. While they do not yet now their specific course assignments, they have had the past two weeks to prepare for teaching online this year.

Our LTO teachers have not had this time to prepare. They also only know the subject area, not the specific courses they will be teaching.  And they are, for the most part, inexperienced, new teachers.

Professional learning was not in the job description for our administrative positions, but I think it is going to be a key part of mine moving forward. I am going to give it some thought, and tomorrow’s blog post will be my personal advice for our Online School teachers.

If you are going to meet your new classes online on Tuesday, and are interested in how I would prepare, please return to this blog tomorrow.  I invite you to reply to this blog post, and let me know what you MOST need to know, and I’ll do my best to respond.

4 thoughts on “School Online – Journal – Day 13

  1. Hi Terry,

    I am an experienced teacher at home with a family status accommodation to teach online. I am returning to school after a leave.. so I have no experience from teaching online in the spring but I have spent the last four weeks (there was a conference before the PD week) watching countless webinars and feeling like a brand new teacher! .. so ..what do I need the most…

    (Apart from a timetable!) I would like to know what a day looks like – just how much time has to be synchronous and asynchronous and when is there prep time ..we don’t usually have to prep for our prep time (if the afternoon is our prep time) but will now to provide asynchronous learning also students are meant to do more than 150 mins synchronous (2×75 min classes) in a day….

    I am also concerned about the assessment and evaluation – will we be on our own for this, will we be writing our own courses, will we be writing our own evaluations, are we using pre written courses (and if so where are they as not every course was present in the training module link) how will course teams work with such large numbers of teachers, we no longer have MarkBook so a new tracking system will have to be learned…

    And the other big concern is the day on Tuesday – I have no idea what is expected and don’t know what to plan for… maybe a specific standardized (board determined) webinar directed to the kids as to how to use Brightspace, maybe one for digital citizenship would be good. I am looking forward to seeing the names of students who will be in my classes and I look forward to connecting with them… but it is 2020 and everything is strange!!

    1. Hi Kirsten:

      Many of your questions are answered in our Staff Handbook, so I won’t address them specifically here.

      For those of us not in our Online School, I will share that basically we follow the same schedule as our “bricks and mortar” school, except that we are able see our entire class synchronously, rather than have to meet in half-class cohorts and deliver the lesson twice.

      Our Day 1 timetable will begin at 8:30 a.m. with Period 1, followed by Period 2, both of which are synchronous instruction. Lunch is an hour, and then for Period 3 your students in Period 1 will be working asynchronously while teachers prep, followed by a final period 4 of the day when the Period 2 class meets synchronously again. For Day 2, Periods 1 and 2 flip, so we begin the day with the Period 2 class, and in the afternoon meet them again for a synchronous class in Period 4.

      The course flow, and assessment, will be determined by the course team. With more than 11,000 students we are going to be able to work collaboratively to source and design materials, and to plan our assessment. I would strongly suggest Brightspace as the tool to organize assessment data, as it will be the only option for the 2021-2022 school year, so an investment now will be well worth it. We will be providing PD, and supporting teachers through this process.

      Today’s blog (Day 14) relates to professional learning and preparation for the first day of classes, so perhaps once it is posted we can continue the conversation there!

      Thanks,

      Terry

  2. thanks Terry!
    I have been through the handbook on Thursday when we got it of course and it did answer many questions. My colleagues and I were trying to figure out the number of synchronous minutes and did not find any details in the handbook that said we have a day 1/day 2 flip schedule. This makes much more sense and allows for the ministry synchronous requirements!

    While I have always used Google Classroom in the past I will be switching to Brightspace this year as it will be the only option going forward – lots of learning to be done this year for sure!!

  3. I had gone through it on Friday afternoon with a work friend who will also be teaching online after we were both a bit confused… now when I look at the online handbook there was an update from Friday which must have been after we spent about an hour trying to figure out the numbers of minutes!! 🤣 shows how rapidly things are evolving around us!!

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